The Birth Interval and the Odds of a Male Birth in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for the Sex-Ratio

Open Access
Author:
Morse, Anne Roback
Graduate Program:
Sociology
Degree:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
September 15, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Jennifer Van Hook, Thesis Advisor
  • Nancy Luke, Committee Member
  • Marianne M. Hillemeier, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • Fetal loss
  • Sex ratio at birth
  • sub-Saharan Africa
  • Miscarriage
  • Spontaneous abortion
Abstract:
Many studies seek to understand the social and biological determinants of the sex ratio at birth, but the literature has neglected to explore how rates of fetal loss might affect a population’s sex ratio at birth due to a difficulty in measuring early fetal loss at a population level. Fetal loss is important for understanding sex ratios at birth because it occurs more often for male than female fetuses (Pelletier 1998; Caselli et al. 2006; Kraemer 2000, Carlo di Renzo et al. 2007; Byrne and Warburton 1987), and poor maternal wellbeing is linked to higher levels of fetal loss (Kim et al. 2012; Nepomnaschy et al. 2006; Agarwal et al. 1998; Norsker et al. 2012). To address this gap in the literature, I use birth intervals as a proxy of fetal loss after controlling for other determinants of birth intervals such as contraceptive use. Using data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), I find a negative relationship between the length of birth interval and the odds of a male birth. I suggest that this relationship can be explained by repeated early fetal loss which both decreases the odds of a male birth and lengthens the birth interval.